Battling sexual assault

Published by Haley Potter, Author: Haley Potter - Senior Rocket Contributor, Date: January 28, 2019
An image from the "Take Back the Night" march in April of 2017. The annual activity is coordinated in part by the Women's Center, the same organization responsible for utilizing a new state grant in raising awareness of sexual assault among student athletes.

Slippery Rock University will be receiving a state grant of $19,800 targeted towards sexual assault prevention among college athletes.

This grant is called “It’s on Us PA” and was set to be in effect at the beginning of the spring semester.

Jodi Solito, Director of the Women’s Center and the Pride Center said that this is not the first time that SRU applied for this grant, but it is the first time that they applied for it out of the athletic area.

Solito said that they are using student-athletes as the target population because the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) has already been using “It’s on Us” across the state and some of our athletes were used in promotions shown at local sporting events.

“We are using athletes as a way to challenge the culture,” Solito said. “They are sometimes looked up to by other students so if these athletes ‘buy-in’ through their model, other students might tune in and listen as well.”

Solito said that the athletic department is familiar with the campaign and decided to capitalize on it and take it a step further.

“I have noticed that in training about sexual violence prevention that student-athletes don’t always have the chance to go to programs and events in the evenings as much as non-athletes so we thought that maybe they would benefit from these opportunities,” Solito said.

Solito said that during the 2018 fall break, a group of athletic trainers came to her and asked about doing some education with athletes about sexual violence.

“When the athletic trainers came to talk to me is when the grant proposal was being released, and I decided that maybe we needed to write the proposal to do some outreach with the student-athletes,” Solito said.

She said that she is working really tightly with the athletic department, coaches, trainers and the athletic director to get a group together to do these educational trainings among student-athletes.

Solito emphasized that it is all about perspective on the topic. She said that over the summer a group is coming to campus called “Men Can Stop Rape” to do an intensive workshop with the coaches, trainers, and athletic staff.

“What we come to realize is that people who decide to step up to address the sexual violence need to be supported,” Solito said. “They can do this more easily if the people around them have the same thought so that is why we train the coaches because they have the most interaction with the athletes and are looked up to by them.”

Solito said that even though this grant is for the athletes, it will affect the entire school. She said that other students will see the big banners at games and have the opportunity to sign a pledge at sporting events.

“Part of what we will be doing with the funding is making high-quality print banners to be put up in the field house and other places for all to see,” Solito said.

She said that the goal is to teach the athletes about attitudes.

“The hardest thing about sexual violence is changing people’s minds or challenging their perspectives and current attitudes,” Solito said.

She said that the athletes will be given surveys to evaluate their current thoughts. Using the results, Solito said she will pull out all of the positive things like positive consent and positive healthy relationships and use that as a way to remind the athletes the importance of having a positive perspective.

The other thing Solito and her department will be doing is creating a resource like a handbook to be more tailored to students. She said that this is so that students know what resources they have on campus. Solito said that one criticism they have heard is that whatever is on the current website about handling sexual assault is not student friendly and is confusing, so they hope that this handbook will help increase reports.

“The handbook will lay out what we do on campus, what to do to help yourself or a friend, and how to report,” Solito said. “We know it happens, but the reporting numbers are not high at all so we want students to choose to report so that they can avoid health problems or leaving school down the road.”

Solito said that she hopes this handbook, as well as all of the trainings, will help everyone with sexual violence prevention.

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Haley is a senior converged journalism major, and this is her fourth year contributing to the news section of The Rocket. This is her second year as a senior Rocket contributor and she focuses on campus and community news. Haley also contributes to the multimedia section of The Rocket, which goes hand-in-hand with her role as President of WSRU-TV News. After graduation, Haley hopes to continue her passion for reporting and become a broadcast news reporter or Multimedia Journalist at a local news station. Aside from The Rocket and WSRU-TV News, Haley is also a member of the Alpha Epsilon-Rho honor society, National Broadcasting Society, Lambda Pi Eta, and SRU's Project to End Human Trafficking.


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